New Understanding of Mesoamerican History Exactly Matches Creek Migration Legends
The Mayas Then and Today – Part Three
During the latter half of the 20th century, the “Prime Objectives” of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia were really economic development of the country via heritage tourism and bolstering of cultural self-confidence among its citizenas. Emphasis was placed on reconstruction of big, showy Mesoamerican city sites that were close to international airports. The INAH was also developing a chain of over 100 museums to explain the nation’s ancient history to both tourists and the Mexican people.
Very little investment was made into the study of the less-advanced peoples at the periphery of the advanced civilizations. Neither North American, European nor Mexican archaeologists were the least bit interested in the lifestyles of the illiterate Maya Commoners, who made up at least 90% of the population. How things have changed.
Today, the vast majority of archaeological and ethnological reports, now published online by the INAH, are concerned with lesser known cultures and town sites, a chain of ports along the Gulf and Pacific Coasts or with the lives of the commoners. The new information exactly meshes with what we discovered in the Creek Migration Legends that were found in a box at Lambeth Palace on April 29, 2015.
(Photo Above) Almost perfect weather conditions in early August enabled me to take this spectacular photo of the Observatory at Chichen Itza. Little did I know that in the 21st century, we would realize that events in Chichen Itza and Palenque, several hundred miles to the south, had such a profound effect on the the Pre-Columbian history of the Southeastern United States.
The Greater Mayan Cultural Sphere
In many ways, the Mayan Civilization’s impacts on Central America and North America were very similar to that of the Roman Empire’s effect on the peripheral areas of Europe. Mexican anthropologists had not realized this fact, during the era in which I studied and traveled in their country. Both Mexican and international archaeologists for many decades were focused on the big cities, big buildings and trophy artifacts in the southern half of Mexico, plus Guatemala and Honduras. During my first two trips to Mexico, Belize was called British Honduras! In the 1980s, the government of newly independent Belize began opening up its Maya sites to archaeologists and tourism. However, Belize’s emphasis was still on “showy” sites that would attract tourists.
This myopic focus caused archaeologists to miss cities or even entire cultures elsewhere. It is only in recent years that the INAH finally noticed an advanced Maya-like civilization in western Tamaulipas State that had many cultural traits like the Muskogean Peoples of the Southeastern United States. Its clay-stuccoed, earthen pyramids were identical to those in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Western Tennessee and the region around Cahokia Mounds.
The INAH also finally recognized the important role that the illiterate Putan (Chontal) Maya merchants had in spreading the essences of advanced Mesoamerican culture to a large swath of the Americas. They have been finding regularly spaced, artificial ports built by the Putan Mayas all along the Gulf Coast . . . almost to the Rio Grande River. Dr. Román Piña Chán, * my fellowship coordinator, never even mentioned the Chontal Mayas to me, even though he was half Maya and grew up in a coastal town on the Gulf that was originally a Chontal Maya port!
*Wikipedia will translate this into English for you. Look for a tab in the upper right hand corner.
Apparently, this ignorance of the Putan Maya’s culture, history and nautical skills still exist in the majority of anthropology programs in the Southeastern United States. The Southeastern archaeologists would not have made such foolish statements in 2012 during the “Mayas in Georgia Thang” if they had been aware of the research going on in Mexico now.
In the next portion of our series on the Mayas, POOF will examine the new understanding of Mesoamerican history coming out the INAH and compare it to the traditional beliefs of the Muskogean peoples as to who they are and where they came from. You will be amazed!
Mexican TV Documentary on Dr. Román Piña Chán
The recognition of the evidence of Maya refugees coming to North America that has occurred on this website over the past five years is a direct result of comments made by Dr. Román Piña Chán during our first orientation meeting at the Museo Nacional de Antropología de México. I had given him two books on the advanced Native American cultures of the Southeast. It is a Latin American tradition that a graduate student present his or her professor with such a gift, when initiating special tutelage as I was about to receive. His first impressions started me a lifelong quest.
Notice that Dr. Piña Chán was descended from the same branch of the Mayas that I visited in Article Two of this series. He had the the same unusual facial features as the petite Maya woman, who was my hostess in Eastern Campeche State.
This 10 minute documentary was made by Mexican Public Television about a month before he died in 2001. I hardly recognized the feeble, wheelchair-bound man they interviewed. I remembered him as a robust intellectual giant, who was constantly going into the jungles and rugged mountains of Mexico to gain new knowledge.
The program is in Spanish, but those who don’t know Spanish will probably get the gist of what is being said from the images. In particular, I wanted POOF readers to see professional architectural videography of the Maya cities. Invariably . . . the History Channel included . . . gringo film makers use lenses that distort the appearance of Maya buildings to make them appear more mysterious.
Mayas . . . Then and Now Series on POOF
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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